Vail Daily column: Choosing the right candidate
Here at RKV Law, this election season coincides with our search for the first new associate for our firm. While our process lacks the larger import of the national and local races, it is a momentous occasion for us nonetheless. Just as the populace is choosing its leadership for the years hence, we are picking an attorney to join our firm family for the long haul. We take the responsibility every bit as seriously as partisans stumping for their party. Job searches in the legal world are based on the same basic principle as an election: finding the right fit is crucial to the continued vitality of the enterprise. Fit cannot be quantified by a known metric, but is a combination of many tangible and intangible factors.
Can’t Categorize candidates
Unlike a political race, the prime job candidates do not come with predetermined and usually binary labels. A legal employer cannot simply vote the party line, but has to take the time to really dig into the specifics of a candidate’s education and experience. Labels can help guide the decision: universities, law schools, internships and past law firms all come with their own reputations and commensurate impressions. Yet, these are all only threshold matters and do not paint the full picture of a candidate. People are comprised of more than just their past, and it is the deeper inquiry that is most illuminating. This is particularly true in the law, where legal education does not necessarily prepare one for success as an attorney. The most accomplished law student may know an overwhelming amount about arcane aspects of legal history, but if they cannot connect with a jury or a client, they are fairly useless.
Part of the Team
One of the many reasons that we are happy with the progress of the firm is the interpersonal dynamics: we complement and challenge each other in ways that would not be possible were we not teammates. This is a trait shared by all successful ventures. Increasing the firm size, even by one, threatens to change that kinship. Our ideal candidate will jive with our disparate personalities and accentuate our positives with his or her own magnetism and drive.
Aptitude and Intuition
Temperament and charisma are important, but do not mean much if an associate is not effective at their job. There is much about the practice of law that cannot be taught, in a classroom or otherwise. In dispositive moments in the courtroom or at the deal table, the difference between failure and success often comes down to instinct. Without an innate disposition for making the right gut calls, an associate’s potential is inherently limited.
Self-Motivation is Key
Even possessed of extraordinary aptitude and intuition, an associate will also flounder if they are not extremely self-motivated and willing to put in long, tedious hours working on matters. This is not some hazing ritual that partners impose for their own amusement. Attorneys at all points along the hierarchy must have a flawless work ethic. Proper preparation requires inordinate amounts of time and it is in the wee hours when big breakthroughs are often made.
Looking for A Match
Identifying our optimal candidate is only the first step: that person also needs to feel that we are their best option. For a law firm less than a year old that is doing things differently, this is not always easy. A candidate’s vision must match the firm’s. In our case, we are not the place looking for someone to just blend in just as a large firm is likely not the right place for a dreamer with an entrepreneurial spirit.
Although it could be entertaining to pit job applicants against each other like in an election, having them debate and address the shortcomings of their opponent, I am glad that our quest for an associate is largely a joyous one devoid of conflict. Instead of lamenting the inundation of campaign literature and the inconveniently-timed telephone calls, I am enthusiastic about reviewing resumes and cover letters.
Walk the Walk
Once the campaign and job search is over, the newly installed representative and associate have an even more daunting task ahead of them. They must find a way to convert the promises made out on the trail or in the interview into reality. Failure to live up to the hype could be grounds for lame duck status or worse. Fortunately, I have more faith in our new associate than I do in the standard issue politician.
T.J. Voboril is a partner at Reynolds, Kalamaya & Voboril LLC, a local law firm, and the owner and mediator at Voice Of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, contact Voboril at 970-306-6456, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.rkvlaw.com.